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Five acts/powers of Shiva and why they matter to us?

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The five acts of Shiva can be observed in his cosmic dance 'Nataraja' posture.  


1. Creation, or emanation  (srishti) -  Shiva is considered the creator of everything or from whom everything appeared in the Shaivite traditions.

"(srishti), is represented by His upper right hand holding the drum upon which He beats Paranada, the Primal Sound, from which issue forth the rhythms and cycles of creation." 


2. Preservation (sthiti) - The sustenance of everything

" is represented by His lower right hand, held in the gesture of blessing, abhaya mudra, indicating "fear not." "


3. Destruction (samhara) - or dissolution or absorption of everything back into Shiva

"is symbolized by the fire in His upper left hand, held in ardha-chandra mudra, "half-moon gesture.""


4. Obscuring grace (tirodhana) -  The most intriguing of all the acts that hides the truth from souls, thereby permitting the worldly

"is represented by His right foot upon the prostrate person, apasmarapurusha, who symbolizes the principle of ignorance, or anava."

(I read in another book, that it is Shiva's right left hand that is going across the chest thereby covering his heart, which results in the tiodhana or ignorance)


5. Revealing divine grace (anugraha) -   grants the knowledge and severs the bonds resulting in realization

"is symbolized by Siva's raised left foot, and by His lower left hand, held in gajahasta or "elephant trunk"mudra, inviting approach.





Now, moving on to the part, what is special about these 5 acts, why does it matter to us what Shiva does?


"Pratyabhijna is, in its essence, a deep and systematic study of man as microcosm and the world he lives in as macrocosm. In it, there is a perfectly scientific analysis of all the human faculities, man's entire physical, mental and spiritual organisms and that of the One Objective Reality (Parama Shiva) into thirty six primary realitives indispensable for the constitution of the universe and processes of creation, etc. The system being broad-based, tackles all the problems of human interest and lays great stress on the spiritual values of life. It is thus a school of 'Spiritual Pragmatism'."


The above quote from the might explain understand this.  As per Abhinavagupta, we the jivas are the microcosm and Shiva is the macrocosm.  If we are made in his image, essentially we are also doing these five acts ourselves in our activities.  Not only do all of us have the capability for all of these 5 actions, we do engage in all of them either consciously or unconsciously.  When we explore this consciously, we may eventually understand, or mystically be observed into the state of 'Shiva'. 


Note:  I created this topic originally in TDB (The Dao Bums) forums.  Some replies and quotes are also copied from there.

Edited by Siva

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On 9/10/2018 at 3:31 PM, Jeff said:

I hope you dont mind, but I thought it might be interesting to add the forms of grace that Shiva bestows, as it also highlights the nature of the tradition being very guru centric. From The Secrete Supreme...


In the kingdom of spirituality. Lord Siva creates masters and disciples through His fifth act, the act of grace (anugraha). This grace is ninefold and, therefore. He creates masters and disciples in nine different ways. 


The first and highest level of grace is called tivrativra sak-tipata. Tivrativra saktipata means "super supreme grace." When Lord Siva bestows super supreme grace on anyone, then that person becomes perfectly self-recognized. He knows his real nature completely and in perfection. At the same time, however, this kind of intense grace can not be resisted by his body, so he throws away his body and dies. This person becomes a master; however, he accomplishes the act of his mastery secretly in the deserving hearts of disciples. He is not visible in this world. Only those who are deserving experience his subtle existence. 


The second intensity of grace is called tivramadhya saktipa-ta. This is "supreme medium grace." The effect of this grace of Lord Siva is that the recipient becomes completely and per-fectly illumined, but does not leave his body. He is said to be a pratibha guru, that is, a master who is made not by another master's initiation, but by his self, by his own grace. He expe-riences spontaneous enlightenment. These particular masters live in this world with their physical bodies for the upliftment of mankind. 


The third intensity of grace is called tivramanda saktipata, which means "inferior supreme grace." In one who has received this grace the desire appears for going to the feet of a spiritual master. And the master that he finds has received the second intensity of grace, tivramadhya saktipata. This master is perfect. He is all knowing. There is no difference between this master and Siva. The master does not initiate him, rather, he simply touches him with his divine hand, or gazes upon him, or embraces him, and at that very moment this disciple, who is a recipient of medium supreme grace, perfectly tran-scends individuality and enters into that supreme transcenden-tal state without the need of practicing japa (recitation) or dhyana (contemplation), etc. Although he still experiences pleasure and pain in his physical body, it does not affect him, as his being has become supreme. That master who has received this particular intensity of grace, which is known as Rudra sakti-samavesah, is called Rudra sakti-samavistah because he has completely entered into the trance of Rudra sakti, the energy of Siva. He exhibits five signs which can be observed by others. The first sign is his intense love for Lord Siva. The second sign is that whenever he recites any mantra, the devata (deity) of that mantra appears to him at once without his having to wait. This is called mantrasiddhih. The third sign which can be observed is that he has control over the five elements. The fourth sign is that what-ever work he begins, he completes that work without defect. And the fifth sign is that either he is a master of all the scrip-tures or he becomes a great poet. Lord Siva, through these three supreme intensities of grace, creates masters in the kingdom of spirituality. With lower intensities of grace Lord Siva creates worthy disciples. 


The fourth intensity of grace is called madhyativara sak-tipdta. This is "medium supreme grace." Through the effect of this intensity of grace, the disciple reaches the feet of that mas-ter who is absolutely perfect. But because the foundation estab-lished in the mind of this disciple is not quite completely per-fect, the mere touch or glance of this perfect master will not bring this disciple to enlightenment. He, therefore, initiates this disciple in the proper fashion by giving him a mantra and teaching him the proper way of treading. Through this initia-tion, the disciple becomes enlightened but during the period of the existence of his physical body, he is not completely satisfied with this enlightenment. When he leaves his physical body at the time of his death, however, he obtains completely satis-factory results from the initiation he had received earlier and becomes one with Siva. 


The fifth intensity of grace is called madhyamadhya sak-tipdta, which means "medium middle grace." When Lord Siva bestows this particular intensity of grace upon someone, the intense desire for achieving the existence of Lord Siva arises in this person's mind. At the same time, however, he does not want to ignore the enjoyments of the world. He wants to enjoy worldly pleasures along with wanting to realize the existence of Lord Siva. Yet the intensity of his desire is only for achiev-ing Lord Siva's state. So, although he is initiated by a master and realizes his real nature as Lord Siva, his real self, and enjoys the bliss of that state while remaining in his physical body, simultaneously he also enjoys the pleasures of the world. But as these worldly pleasures, which take place in this mortal field of the universe, are not real pleasures, at the time of his leaving his physical body, he enters into the kingdom of para-dise (svargaloka) and enjoys all the worldly pleasures to his entire satisfaction. After he has satisfied his desire for worldly pleasures, he does not come down again into this world but is again initiated by his master, who is all-pervading, while he remains in heaven. Through this initiation, he becomes com-plete and realizes the reality of his supreme nature and he enters into the kingdom of Lord Siva and merges in Him com-pletely from heaven itself.


The sixth intensity of grace is called madhyamanda saktipa-ta, which means "medium inferior grace." The effect of this grace is very much like the effect of medium middle grace; however, the difference lies in predominance. The effect of medium middle grace is that in the mind of the disciple arises both the desire for attaining the state of Lord Siva and the desire for experiencing worldly pleasures. The predominant desire, however, is for attaining the state of Lord Siva. The effect of medium inferior grace is also that in the mind of this disciple arise both the desire for attaining the state of Lord Siva and the desire for experiencing worldly pleasures. However, the predominant desire here is for experiencing worldly pleas-ures. Though he achieves self-realization, it is not complete because of the agitation he experiences seeking worldly pleas-ures. So at the time of his leaving his physical body, this inten-sity of grace carries him from this mortal world first to para-dise, where he enjoys the pleasures of the world. But while in paradise he does not gain the fitness to begin practicing for attaining the realization of his self. He must, therefore, be again reborn and come down into this mortal field. And from that very birth he sentences his mind toward the fulfillment of his self-realization. Although his life in this mortal realm is very short, as Lord Siva wants to carry him quickly to his own state, he becomes absolutely complete in that short span of time and enters, in the end, into the transcendental state of Siva. The above three medium intensities of grace take place in the field of aspirants living in the kingdom of Sivadharma. Those aspirants have the inclination to achieve the state of self-realization at least half hourly during the day and at least twice during the night. The remaining period they keep aside for worldly pleasures. 


The following three inferior intensities of grace - manda tivra (inferior supreme), manda madhya (inferior medium), and manda manda (inferior inferior) - take place in the field of aspirants living in lokadharmah, the kingdom of worldly life. These aspirants have the desire for achieving self-realization, the state of Lord Siva, only when the pains and pressures of this world become too much to bear. At that moment, they want to abandon everything and achieve self-realization but they are not able to, and though they want to leave this worldly life, they cannot. These aspirants have more tendency for worldly pleasure and less tendency for realizing their Self. But, as the grace of Lord Siva shines in them, in the end, which may take many lifetimes, they become one with the supreme being. This is the greatness of Lord Siva's grace - that no matter what intensity of His grace is with you, it will carry you to his nature in the end.


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